Over Facebook chat, my friend scolded me about my dating life. She insisted that
I put myself out there more by going on TV shows, online dating sites and to
matchmakers. God forbid I be single! Although I personally think my dating
stories are far more interesting than my married friends’ stories of laundry,
cooking and diapers, I guess I too am susceptible to the desire to couple up. So
I opened a new tab in my Internet browser and went to an Orthodox matchmaking
The first step is to fill out the questionnaire. I thought, “How
hard could this be? I’ll just click single, no children and Orthodox, put up
some pictures, write about myself and what I’m looking for in a man, and
Um, wrong! The first question alone made me feel like I was in
front of a beit din. It asked with which sect of Judaism I identify? Easy
enough, right? Except there were about 50 choices. (I guess the Jewish people
really are divided.) Then there were questions about my level of observance:
kashrut, how I dress, whether I cover my head and how I often I pray and study
Following these questions, I had to answer the
section on whether I am a convert or ba’al tshuva (newly religious). Click yes
or no, right? Ha! What year did you convert? Under which organization did you
convert? Who was your conversion rabbi? What’s the bracha on a banana? Okay, the
last one I made up (and it’s a trick question).
THEN I came upon the
question, “Are you disabled?” Wait. What? Why? Am I filling out my taxes? Am I
buying a train ticket? Did I just skip the line at Disney World? But, okay, I
clicked “yes,” and a follow-up question appeared. It asked me to “please
Okay, now I was confused. Did they want the percentage of
disability the government has declared me, my actual diagnosis, my doctor’s name
and number, or a list of medical devices I use? Ugh! I just wrote “wheelchair”
and moved on, slightly irritated.
It wasn’t until the website asked, “Are
you willing to date someone with a disability?” and “Are you willing to date a
ba’al tshuva?” that I got angry.
The site didn’t ask: Are you willing to
date a Satan worshiper? A rapist? A murderer? A child molester? A psycho? The
absurdly stupid. Right. No need to explain if you are unattached due to your
serial adultery. Where they draw the line is disability and returning to
I am not sure why these questions are there. They do not seem
intended to link up people with similar worldviews and parallel lifetime goals,
such as marriage, children and a Torah-centered home.
seem to cater to a bias to make the matchmaker’s life easier. Weed out the
Rather than go to the trouble of finding an appropriate
match or looking at my actual characteristics, the matchmaker would only have to
look at a small pool of men – that is, religious men in Israel who would date a
Sure, this may be convenient. Limit the number of men you
need to sift through. But most people don’t even know anyone with a disability.
People know stereotypes. When they think of a disabled person, they think of
Christopher Reeves or Jerry’s kids, who are often portrayed as sad, deformed and
Disability is not normally linked with an attractive blonde
with a bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees, and who is independent, worldly and
witty, yet artistic.
(And who, by the way, is neither deformed nor
drools. Well, except on my pillow at night).
So, yeah, they click
“no” to that question. So would I avoid a deformed drooler who is also an
absurdly stupid, Satan-worshiping, psychotic, child molesting rapist? (Oh, yeah,
they forgot to ask about those hobbies).
A close friend of mine once told
me that before we met, he signed up for a dating website. It asked him whether
he would date someone with a disability. He answered “no.” After meeting and
getting to know me, he went back to the website and changed his
THE WEBSITE superimposes its own biases on the Orthodox
Ba’alei tshuva and the disabled are undesirable. No need to
allow users to make the choice for themselves.
The site asks a question
that its users are too uninformed to answer. At the same time, the site denies
users, such as yours truly, the chance of being matched with a suitable
candidate. The website does not ask whether its users are unwilling to date
someone based on their race, national origin, criminal background, IQ, bank
account, family tree or mental health. No. The only undesirable traits are how
God made us and whether we have returned to Him. In doing so, the website
discriminates against the disabled and ba’alei tshuva.
One of the
greatest interpreters of Torah was Rabbi Akiba. He was a ba’al tshuva. It would
be hard to see him on this site. Moses was the father of all prophets – our
rabbi, our teacher. When God saw Moses, He saw a man disabled by a speech
impediment, who grew up unaware that he was a Hebrew. He was not “frum from
birth,” but rather converted with the rest of the Jewish people at the foot of
Sinai. So it’s a good thing Zipporah didn’t use this website. She may never have
met our greatest prophet.
Well, as the song says, “I’ll be seeing
Though perhaps not on this site. To help when we meet, I am the
blonde, modestly dressed lawyer.
Excuse me if I don’t stand
The writer is a Tel Aviv-based attorney with a doctorate in law from
Emory University. She made aliya in 2008.